Almost nothing is more difficult when you are applying for a job than writing a cover letter when you have no idea of the addressee's or company's name. Although cover letters follow a fairly standard flow when you're writing "To Whom it May Concern," any uncertainty influences the confidence with which you send your letter and resume. At any rate, Compose a letter that expresses a genuine interest in the job, including a brief statement about why your letter lacks a personal salutation and your concern about responding to a blind ad.
1. List your full name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number in the header of your letter or along the left margin. Follow your contact information with the date of your letter. Type the words "To Whom it May Concern" justified with the left margin. Beneath that, type the name of the company, if you have it, and its mailing address. If you know the name of the department -- but not the addressee's name -- include that above the company name. Use the salutation "Dear Sir or Madam" for your letter.
2. Apologize for not being able to send a personally addressed letter and explain that you attempted to obtain a full name. State this briefly, without an accusatory tone.
3. Draft an introduction that gives a brief statement about your interest in the job, where you saw it advertised and your qualifications. For example, start your letter with: "I am very interested in learning more about the retail buyer position that was posted on LinkedIn. After reading the qualifications, I am confident that my skills and work experience are ideally suited for this role. I have 10-plus years of experience as a junior buyer, as well as a B.A. in fashion merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Los Angeles."
4. Describe your qualifications and background in a short paragraph -- two or three sentences. Include significant accomplishments, such as measurable cost savings or increased productivity. Whenever possible, include tangible measures instead of words that don't suggest quantitative achievements. For example, write: "I reduced purchasing costs by 20 percent each year during my five-year career with ABC Retail. I also generated increased revenue in southeastern stores by 12 percent each quarter during 2012."
5. Write a final paragraph reiterating your interest in learning more about the job. Indicate that you're interested in a telephone interview and when you're available for a face-to-face interview. Express your appreciation for the reader's time and favorable consideration of your interest and qualifications.
- Consider addressing your letter as "Dear Recruiter" instead of a very impersonal "To Whom it May Concern."
- Contain your enthusiasm about replying to a blind ad -- that's why it could be wise to say you're interested in learning more about the position instead of you're sure you want the job that was advertised.
- If you're unsure of the person's name and have been unsuccessful in obtaining the name due to an uncooperative operator or receptionist, be cautious about expressing too much excitement about the company.
About the Author
Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
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How to open and close your cover letter
On a cover letter, formality is rarely a bad thing.
Write your cover letter opening and closing with these tips.
In a tight job market flooded with resumes and cover letters, it’s a given that your documents and messages need to be error-free. So how else can you distinguish your communications? Appropriate openings and closings that convey professionalism and polish.
Use our tips below on how to start your cover letter with a proper greeting and sign off with a polished signature. And if you need additional writing tips, join Monster today, so the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service can help you impress employers with a high-impact resume and cover letter.
Cover letter openings
Write a formal greeting, such as Dear Ms. Alvis or Dear Mr. Yang. If you're unsure of the person’s gender and can’t find out, write the full name, as in Dear Chu Li or Dear Chris Beltran.
While it is increasingly common to see greetings without the "Dear" in business, it is less formal. When applying for a job, sometimes you want to start off formally, even though you may take a less formal tone in subsequent written exchanges.
If you’re unfamiliar with someone’s name, be sure you don’t confuse the first name with the family name, which can easily happen in today’s global business environment, depending in part on the languages you know. For example, the CEO of Lenovo is Yang Yuanqing. His surname is Yang and his first name is Yuanqing (in Mandarin, the family name is written first), so if you are addressing him, you would write Dear Mr. Yang and not Dear Mr. Yuanqing.
A final comment on people’s names: be sure to spell them correctly. That is one typo no recipient will miss.
What if you cannot track down a contact name for your cover email? Use a generic salutation, such as Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Recruiting Manager or Dear Human Resources Professional. (Avoid To Whom It May Concern; it is antiquated.) Another option is to write Greetings, which is somewhat informal but polite. You could also dispense with the opening greeting altogether and start with your first sentence, although some recipients might find that approach to be abrupt.
In all openings, be sure to capitalize the first letter of every noun and follow your greeting with punctuation. Use either a colon (Dear Mr. Yang:) or a comma (Dear Recruiting Manager,).
Cover letter closings
End your message with a formal closing, such as Sincerely, Regards or Best regards. If your closing contains more than one word, capitalize only the first word, as in Best regards or Sincerely yours. And be sure to put a comma after your closing. A common error in business communications is the omission of that comma.
Your full name goes on the next line. No need for the extra space that used to go on letters for the signature. Write your telephone number and email address on separate lines after your name. Although this contact information is on your resume (and your email address is on your email), including it with your cover message makes life easier for the recipient.
This post is by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, authors of The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job